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Watershed Natural History- Fifteenmile Creek

Town Creek Aqueduct
Dry Fifteenmile Creek bed during droughty conditions in August 2006.

When the early settlers reached the Appalachian Mountains in the 18th century, they were clearly in awe of the size and vastness of the native virgin forest and the potential that it offered.  In the middle of the 19th century, John Upton of London, England, described the forest within William Carroll’s huge Town Hill Estate in Allegany County, Maryland (most of  its 12,000 acres were located within the Fifteenmile Creek watershed):

The residue of the estate is entirely woodland, containing an immense quantity of oak, and other timber as valuable as any in this part of America.  There is the hickory, the white, black, and rock oaks, many of them near one hundred feet high, and fifty to seventy feet from the lower limbs to the ground, with trunks of corresponding magnitude, well adapted for Naval purposes; also the sugar and curly maple, gum, and flowering locust trees, white, yellow, and red pines, one hundred and twenty feet high, exceedingly tough and clean, that will square two feet six inches at the butts when slabbed, and some larger, fit for masts, yards, and spars; also an abundance of sassafras, sumac, and other valuable dyeing and medicinal plants, and thousands of tons of oak and quercitron bark.

The dense and diverse forest at that time provided extensive habitat for a variety of animals, including black bears, woodland bison, mountain lions, timber wolves, elk, white-tailed deer, beaver, foxes, skunks, and wildland birds.  Many of the populations of these species were grossly depleted or eliminated as a result of lost habitat as the forest was cut during the 19th century; other species were considered varmints and were hunted to extinction or near extinction.  Effective game management and return of the land to forest has allowed many of these populations—such as the white-tailed deer and turkey—to be successfully restored in the watershed.